Concerns about America’s future science and technology competitiveness in the global economy are changing the role of the nation’s research universities in K-12 science education. The National Academies’ report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, recommended three actions to improve K-12 STEM education: 1) Attract more of America’s brightest students to the teaching profession; 2) Strengthen the skills of the nation’s current K-12 teachers; and 3) Enlarge the pipeline of students prepared to pursue STEM degrees. This symposium focuses on strategies developed by four research universities to address these aspects of K-12 science education.
The strategies include enhanced cooperation between schools of education and science departments to create teacher education programs that develop future teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge by bridging the traditional gap between undergraduate science curricula and education credential programs. The University of Arizona’s Science Teacher Preparation Program, the University of California, San Diego’s California Teach Program, and the University of California Berkeley’s Cal Teach and Summer Research Institute exemplify ways to bridge this gap. Project PASS at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is a strategy to strengthen the skills of current teachers through collaborative partnerships between universities and school districts that develop professional learning communities. Another strategy is the creation of University-led charter schools, such as the University of California, San Diego’s Preuss School, that provide rigorous college preparatory courses for diverse, low-income, first-generation college students. These strategies, their implementation, their impact and institutional changes that made them possible will be explored.
The California Teach Program at the University of California, San Diego, recruits and prepares undergraduates interested in teaching science and mathematics. One of the products of the program is a set of courses taught by faculty in science disciplines which integrate subject matter with theories of learning and instruction, with the goal of providing a bridge between the students' science coursework and the teacher credential program. These science content-intensive courses, and preliminary results on the effects of these courses on participating students, are described here. There are strong indications from surveys and analysis of student work that the courses are positively influencing students' attitudes toward teaching, that students' own learning of science has become more sophisticated, and that a foundation is being laid for development of the content-specific pedagogical knowledge and skills needed to teach in a way that is consistent with how people learn science. In addition, the possible impact of these courses on the way students learn science in their regular science courses has been found by tracking student performance in an introductory chemistry course sequence.
Collaboration of faculties of the Division of Physical Sciences and the Education Studies Department at UC San Diego has fostered the creation of an innovative teacher preparation program, California Teach, combining content, pedagogy, and early field experiences. Important academic products of the collaboration are two undergraduate minors, one in math and one in science; the present discussion will focus on the Science Education Minor, which is sponsored in part by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Data collected include qualitative measures of students’ views and attitudes and quantitative measures of their knowledge and performance. Students who have taken courses in the Minor show increased interest in teaching. In addition, evidence from several channels is mounting that the coursework that combines science content and theories of learning/cognition has produced changes in the ways that students think about science and in their success at science problem-solving and academic achievement.
The California Teach Program, begun in 2005-2006 to prepare University of California STEM majors for teaching careers, spurred the creation of a new science education minor at UC San Diego. This minor includes three courses, offered through the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which mix challenging science content with the study of learning. These courses are helping to meet the goals of the the initiative: improving students' attitudes toward teaching science as a profession, and laying a foundation for development of students' pedagogical content knowledge. Moreover, there are strong indications that students' own learning of science is being affected by these courses: that participating students are rethinking and improving how they learn science; that they differentiate between various approaches to learning and kinds of science knowledge; and that cumulative exposure to courses in the series has a positive effect on students' facility with conceptual and ill-structured science problems.
A key component of a new science-teacher education program at UCSD is a series of courses which combine science content with experiences and discussion of issues of learning and teaching. These courses are part of UCSD's Science Education Minor, implemented as part of the UC System-wide California Teach Program. The courses support students in the unpacking of their own understanding of science and the development of insights and skills that will allow them to create a foundation for pedagogical content knowledge. As of spring 2010, 279 students have taken at least one course in this series. Many participating students report an effect of the courses on their own thinking and learning in science; this is supported by evidence in student coursework. Moreover, many students have reported an increase in their interest in teaching as a profession as they have progressed, and 10 have matriculated to the UCSD teacher credential program.
Fundamental to effective teaching is development of pedagogical content knowledge, the integration of subject matter and pedagogy. Yet, the traditional isolation of science subject matter courses and education courses deprives prospective teachers of the opportunity to “unpack” their understanding of science and integrate content and pedagogy. The vision of the new California Teach undergraduate science education minor at the University of California, San Diego is to bridge this gap through a cooperative effort between the science and education departments.
Three content-focused courses in the science education minor highlight the challenges inherent to learning and teaching science, while offering students an opportunity to revisit fundamental science concepts, to explore the nature of science, and to practice skills in scientific reasoning. The courses are seminar-style and require student presentations and active student engagement in discussions, problem tasks, and teaching/learning activities. These courses include content from all of the core disciplines of science. Sample syllabi will be available at the conference.
Preliminary data indicate that the attitudes of the target science majors are moving in the desired direction, including enhanced interest in teaching, and that their understanding of pertinent issues and concepts is improving. For example, students are recognizing limitations in their scientific understanding, identifying their own scientific misconceptions, learning the difference between rote factual and deep conceptual knowledge, and connecting different scientific disciplines. These courses appear to be promoting the use of new active learning strategies by students in their regular science courses, such as enhanced metacognitive skills and self-questioning, more active/collaborative approaches to learning, seeking real-life applications, and considering alternative approaches that could be used to teach the material. In sum, students are developing insights and skills that will enable them to benefit maximally from their fieldwork in schools, priming them to build a rich body of pedagogical content knowledge.
Courses and fieldwork experiences in the UCSD CalTeach program focus on blending deep content knowledge with strong pedagological practices. Neither the science and mathematics departments nor Education Studies could accomplish this goal in isolation. It is only through ongoing collaboration and partnership that we can bring the strengths of multiple departments together to create a powerful learning experience for our future science and mathematics teachers. The merging of pedagogy and content occurs at each level of the program and in every course. This consistent theme of the program brings into focus the critical need for deep content knowledge as well as the knowledge of learning within each discipline.
The program is supported by purposeful fieldwork with local districts, high-needs schools, and carefully selected mentor teachers. These STEM students in early field experiences engage in discipline-specific pedagogy and intensive teaching apprenticeship experiences to prepare them to enter the UCSD graduate intern teacher credential program. This intern teacher program is an intensive 15-month credential and Master of Education degree in which qualified teacher candidates are the teacher of record in secondary classrooms employed by the school districts on a 60% teaching contract. The partnerships and field experiences are designed to give the students specific, supported, and scaffolded interactions with veteran classroom teachers and adolescent learners. Faculty in the science departments, mathematics and EDS are in the fourth year of implementing lower-division SMI courses and field experiences.
Through the partnership between Education Studies Program and the Physical Sciences Division, the courses and experiences of future teachers has been planned and scaffolded to provide them with the tools to make informed and effective classroom decisions. With the school partnerships our STEM majors are able to learn about the work of effective urban teachers as well as provide important mentoring and tutoring to local K-12 students creating far reaching impacts on our community.
In traditional pre-service teacher education programs, education courses are “add ons” to science content courses. As a result, future teachers are taught the importance of authentic inquiry and constructivism, but may never learn science in the way they are expected to teach it. University of California San Diego's California Teach bridges this divide through genuine sharing of expertise between the faculty of Physical Sciences and the faculty of Education Studies in a new undergraduate program that was developed, approved and implemented within one year. Lessons learned from the collaborative efforts to design the program have relevance to those at other institutions seeking to bridge the divide between the science and education departments, or to develop other interdisciplinary academic programs. The Cal Teach formula for success includes five key ingredients: 1) Mutual benefits; 2) Recognition of distinct sets of expertise; 3) Agreement on core principles; 4) Willingness to negotiate; and 5) Strong leadership. In concert with administrative buy-in and advocacy, science education faculty catalyzed collaboration by changing attitudes locally and across departments.
In traditional pre-service teacher education programs, education courses are “add ons” to science content courses. Interactions between these disciplines have high activation energy due to barriers of discipline-specific language, culture and location. As a result, future teachers are taught the importance of authentic inquiry and constructivism, but may never learn science in the way they are expected to teach it. UCSD's California Teach bridges this divide through genuine sharing of expertise between the faculty of Physical Sciences and the faculty of Education Studies in a new undergraduate program that was developed, approved and implemented within one year. The Cal Teach formula for success includes five key ingredients: 1) Mutual benefits; 2) Recognition of distinct sets of expertise; 3) Agreement on core principles; 4) Willingness to negotiate; and 5) Strong leadership. In addition to administrative buy-in and advocacy, UCSD chemistry education faculty catalyzed collaboration by changing attitudes locally and across departments.
The language of mathematics as taught by mathematicians differs from the language of mathematics used by scientists, and modeling reality introduces assumptions absent in abstract calculations (Redish, 2005). For students, drawing on mathematics knowledge in science class has another layer of complexity. As documented in diSessa’s (1988, 2008) Knowledge in Pieces work, contexts that experts consider equivalent often elicit diverse fragments of knowledge in novices. The current research investigates the coherence of undergraduates’ ideas about rates of change—essential for understanding reaction kinetics. Undergraduate students, mostly mathematics and science majors, responded to a set of open-ended survey questions about calculus concepts a year or more after they completed the three-academic-quarter introductory calculus sequence. This time gap is a unique feature of the study that offers insight into how ideas are retained, and ensures students are not simply parroting what they just memorized in class. The survey questions most pertinent to understanding reaction kinetics—asking the difference between average rate of change and instantaneous rate of change, and the meaning of the corresponding notation (delta f/delta x versus df/dx)—were analyzed by two independent coders. Disagreement about what was a misconception and what was merely imprecise wording/notation was resolved by discussion between the coders and an instructor of the introductory calculus sequence. Of the 84 students in the study, 23 percent had misconceptions about average and instantaneous rates of change and 37 percent had misconceptions about the relevant notation. The results indicate that while most students had productive knowledge resources (Hammer, 2000) on these topics, not all are speaking the same mathematical language. Yet, standard textbook introductions to reaction rates presume a grasp of this common language as they move between plots of concentration versus time and rate versus concentration and derive rate equations. Implications for instruction will be addressed.